Major flaws in Toronto District School Board work order system exposed

Long-standing issues previously identified by Skilled Trades Council come to the fore with Board's public release of thousands of past work orders

TORONTO, Dec. 6, 2012 /CNW/ - Thousands of work orders released to the media by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) have highlighted long-standing flaws in the system, according to the TDSB Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council (MCSTC).

"Work orders are vaguely written and often don't capture the true scope of the work required. Timesheets allot less than one line to describe the actual work required and the reasons for any additional time required to complete a job," MCSTC Vice President Mike Morgan said.

Morgan described the current system as "totally inadequate" and said it has been responsible for many of the misleading reports about time and costs associated with completing work orders.

"We have made our concerns about the system known to management. Now that this system has come under the microscope in the media and the public, I think we'll see the Board make some much needed changes in documenting and inputing the actual work done by our trades," Morgan said.

Because the format of timesheets does not allow skilled trades employees to document various factors that determine the time it takes to complete a work order, Morgan said MCTSC directed its members earlier this year to keep a daily journal and log of their work and document the information that is lacking from work orders, timesheets and change orders.

Morgan said there are a number of other issues with the system. Among them:

  • Change orders (additional work required) for jobs are not recorded by management, even though they are required to do this, as well as document the information in work orders, and account for the change in time sheets.
  • Work orders contain inaccurate or vague identification of the issue and the actual work required, resulting in different trades people being sent out to address the same situation at additional time and cost. For example, roofers have been sent to repair a leak in classroom ceiling when the issue is a leaking pipe requiring a plumber.
  • Trades workers dispatched to one job are reassigned to another and told by TDSB supervisors to record hours to the original job, even though the job was not completed.
  • Work orders are duplicated and different trades are sent to the same job because management cannot identify the correct tradesperson required.
  • Work is incorrectly assigned. Trades people are sent to jobs that could have been and should have been performed by a school caretaker. This provision has been available to management since 1998 and years later it is still not been properly followed. As a result, skilled trades workers are sent to install pencil sharpeners, a job that a caretaker could have done.
  • Travel time to and from job sites is not recorded separately. Nor is the time required to pick up materials to complete a job or obtain new materials due to the incomplete or inaccurate description of work in work orders, recorded separately. The scope of work and time and materials required can only be determined when a skilled tradesperson is on site and evaluates the job.

Added to this are errors in recording time made by management staff, who are responsible for entering information from hand-written timesheets into a computer database. Skilled trades employees do not see to see the final keyed in timesheet information to verify of accuracy.

The current flaws in the system, make it difficult to draw any firm conclusions from the work orders that have been recently released to the media, according to Morgan.

"What is absolutely true, and what everyone should keep in mind, is what management's responsibilities are in all of this," Morgan said, adding that:

  • All work orders are approved and issued by management and supervisors, not the MCSTC or skilled trade employees.
  • All time submitted by skilled trades employees relating to work orders MUST be checked approved by TDSB supervisors.
  • Any irregularities or discrepancies between work orders and time submitted and materials used requires reconciliation between supervisors and trades workers when time sheets are submitted - not weeks, months, or even years later.

Morgan said the TDSB is now attempting to reconstruct past work orders to explain the scope of work and the hours assigned which it says will be completed by January, 2013. Had all this information been properly collected in work orders  and timesheets, the information would be readily accessible.

A comprehensive review of all of these procedures was completed five years ago and made several recommendations for improvement which the Council supported.

"The Board has been slow to implement changes and improvements, " Morgan said.

"Media reports have falsely portrayed the MCSTC as some sort of construction company that charges the TDSB for work. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Council is a trade union that represents employees of the TDSB that do maintenance and construction work at the direction and under the supervision of management.  The union's function is the same as CUPE and teachers federations at the TDSB. "

SOURCE: Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council

For further information:

Mike Morgan
(416) 406-0115

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Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council

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